New law on bikies: serious invasion of human rights

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Queensland's new bikie laws are a serious invasion of fundamental human rights, according to University of Adelaide Senior Lecturer in Law Dr Gabrielle Appleby.

Last week, the Queensland Government introduced tough new bikie laws that see bikie gang members face a minimum of 15 years in a maximum security jail on top of their initial sentence unless they co-operate with police. Jail terms also apply for riding in groups and wearing club colours in hotels.

"These new laws are an incursion of the right to be free from arbitary detention, the right to a fair trial before an independent judge and the right to free speech and association," Dr Appleby says.

"Mandatory sentences, which are historically unusual, severely limit a judge's ability to consider the full circumstances of a case in determining an appropriate penalty."

Since the "war on bikies" commenced in the 2000s, various anti-bikie measures have been put in place and the High Court has found a significant proportion unconstitutional.

While controversial, Dr Appleby says many aspects of the new Queensland law are likely to be constitutionally valid.

"The legislation - and the way in which it was pushed through Queensland's parliament - highlights the inherent dangers in Australia's constitutional system, which relies heavily on democratic institutions for the protection of individual rights," Dr Appleby says.

"The laws in Queensland were introduced and passed in the course of parliament's three sitting days last week. Each bill was declared urgent and no outside consultation or committee scrutiny occurred.

"This is certainly not the first time that we have seen this type of fearmongering and abuse of parliamentary processes to pass extreme measures that erode fundamental liberties of the few in the name of protection of the many. This reflects a failure of the community as well as a failure of the parliament and, ultimately, the Constitution.

"Too often we have seen the opportunistic passage of legislation that targets perceived threats without a full analysis of the actual danger posed and whether the measures will address that danger proportionally."

Dr Appleby presented a paper entitled State Law and Order Regimes and the High Court: Past, Present and Future today before the Australian Association of Constitutional Law (NSW Chapter).


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Dr Gabrielle Appleby
Senior Lecturer
The University of Adelaide
Business: 08 8313 0874
Mobile: 0401 325 505

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